Walking Dead Paths
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It is amazing that in a city full of so many memories of the past that there remains so much that is forgotten. I would like to believe that these memories have simply died the death of a thousand cuts, like a frog being slowly boiled alive in a pot. But, I also must wonder how much has been forgotten by design.

We are an old people, and we have always lived here. The "golden city" of Menefer was not always golden, of course. In fact, it was never really golden at all. It was white.

Inebu-hedj, the ancient fortress of Iry-Hor was walled in white limestone, so pure that it glittered in the morning sun and could be seen for miles along the Iteru. It was a place that became even more important when Narmer brought the Upper and Lower lands together, remembered as a place of union, of everlasting peace. In those days it was Ankh-Tawy, the Life of Two Lands.

I remember it first as a series of small shelters, a place to get out of the wind when Seth raged in the deshret, causing the sand to fly like shattered glass. In those days, during the dry season, the red lands would creep into the kemet, the black lands, as Seth battled Horu for dominance over all the world. Iry-Hor had not yet carried Horu's banner forth from Abydos, and Narmer himself wasn't even a dream upon the horizon.

We huddled in the dust, hiding from Seth, and I prayed to Neith, may Her Name never be forgotten, to keep us safe as Her children waged war upon each other. The Mother Goddess was old even then, and I was but one of many of Her servants in those days. It is one of my earliest memories, and there are times that I wonder if this is when I was born. Before the great complex of Djoser, before the reign of Narmer, when Iry-Hor was but a tribal chieftain with dreams of conquest.

So to, do I dream. Not of the conquest of lands and people, and certainly not into the future. Rather, I dream of the conquest of my past, and I cast the conquering armies of my mind into that long gone place, to once again roam the dusty streets of cities so lost to time that even I cannot remember their names.

In those dreams, as I have in life, I start my journey in the modern villages of Mit Rahina, Dahshur, or El-Hawamdeyya. I watch the cars move with dream-like slowness through the dust of a modern town. I make my way down an unnamed road past a homewares shop. I watch the bright sparks of living people flutter amongst the hordes of the duller, dimmer shadows of people long dead, and as the road curves to the left, the buildings fall away to reveal what ruins the current inhabitants have deigned to keep.

Here, the hard lines of the current buildings give way finally to the ghostly ones of buildings that exist only in my memory. I see walls of brick and clay, of pressed limestone and sand, faint echos of the city that once stood here, lost to time and the inexorable march of progress. It is here, where the bright shadows cast by the living fade, and I can remember the voices of children as they run and play. I can hear the animals lowing in their pens, the long intonations of merchants hawking their wares, the sharp yips of a dog who drew too near to the ponderous rotations of a heavy cartwheel.

It is funny, beneath the stink of steel and rubber, without the clouds of exhaust and modern smog, the smell of a place does not often change. The people here eat and cook many of the same meals they have cooked and eaten for generations. The smell of bird and incense, the sharp aroma of fish pulled from the river, fried in olive oil and seasoned with spice that has been sold along the Iteru since… well, as long as people have traveled its sacred currents.

I look out across the years and there is sadness, to see people today, walking and laughing and living, unaware of the shadows cast by their ancestors, blithely ignorant that they walk in the footsteps of so many. There is also pride, too. I can trace the steps of any one of these memory-shadows and I can see the things they did to prepare the way for the children that would come after. I see them toil and work, building their lives that they can give to their descendants, creating a place for them to walk where they can no longer.

I wonder if they are proud? I can only see where they have been, can only guess if they can take pride in what their children have done with their gifts. Neith, may Her Name never be forgotten, does not deign to tell me of those She has taken home, for She bids me only to remember them as they were, not as they are now.

It is thus that I walk, my old body moving slowly through crowds of the quick and the young, my eyes see that which is overlaid on top of that which was. It is hard, sometimes, to tell the difference. When a memory of an important event draws itself to the surface, I can still see their faces, sharp and clear. I have to wonder, when caught up in one of those moments, if the weight of so much memory is what has bowed my back and sloped my shoulders, if the struggle to define that which I see as THEN or NOW is what has clouded my vision.

Or maybe, it is just age. I do not think we were ever meant to live this long.

From the desk of Issa Antar
Priest-Scribe of the Goddess Neith
May Her Name never be forgotten.
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